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New round of trade negotiations at risk.

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3 November 1999


New round of trade negotiations at risk


Australia risked missing out on a potential $7.5 billion welfare gain if the approaching World Trade Organisation Millennium Round failed, Shadow Trade Minister, Senator Peter Cook, warned today.


“The recent comment by European Union Trade Commissioner, Pascal Lamy, that ‘we may not be able to launch a new round at all’ is deeply disturbing,” Senator Cook said.


“Several barriers still seem to stand in the way of the Round:


•  The growing power of the ‘new isolationists’ in the United States Congress make it unlikely that the President will be granted ‘fast-track’ negotiating authority until well after the November 2000 election.


•  Recent conflict on trade issues within the EU, with Britain and France now at loggerheads over accepting each other’s beef exports.


•  Continuing trans-Atlantic tensions, marked by the inability of the US and EU to even sort out their long-running banana dispute.


•  The failure of Cairns Group countries to successfully quash the notion of ‘multi-functionality’, which the EU and Japan are using as a justification for maintaining protectionist policies on agriculture.


•  The bloc of developing countries — including Malaysia, India, Brazil and Egypt — that have opposed the Round, saying it offers little for them. Since the WTO is a consensus-based body, it is vital that we address their concerns.


•  The tens of thousands of political activists expected to attend the Seattle meeting and oppose a new Round — including environmentalists, unionists, anti-globalisation groups and radical Christian organisations. Much of this anger could have been dispelled if the WTO had operated in a more transparent manner. Yet Australia is among the most secretive countries when it comes to WTO negotiations and dispute settlement procedures.


“Last week’s meeting of the ‘Friends of a New Round’ group in Lausanne, Switzerland, appears to have been pointless. The group did not even issue a joint communique, restricting itself to a bland chairman’s summary of the points that were discussed.


“In the last WTO Round, the active diplomacy of Australia helped break through the traditional US-EU hostilities. If the Millennium Round is to be successful, we must do the same again.”




For further information, please contact:

Andrew Leigh on 02 6277 3700 or 0412 633 652.



dd  1999-11-04  09:00